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Thieves armed with guns fixed with silencers have stormed a currency-exchange company in a northern Iraqi city, killing five people and detonating a bomb to fend off pursuing police, Iraqi officials say.

Five assailants managed to make off with cash equivalent to $3.4m during Saturday's raid, according to police officials in Baquba, the capital of Diyala province, 60km outside Baghdad.

No motive for the attack has been given and, despite a security lockdown, no arrests have been made.

The attack comes as a blow to military operations in the country where almost 50,000 American troops are stationed. US forces are approaching the six-month deadline towards a December 31 deadline for complete withdrawal.

Bomb attacks and sectarian violence have dropped in Iraq but criminal activity has been on the rise, including a spate of daylight robberies of banks, jewellers and financial institutions across the country.

Many of the heists have been blamed on Sunni extremists, who are said to be short on cash and seeking ways to fund their operations, or former fighters who have turned to crime instead.

Nine other Iraqis were wounded on Saturday, including four policemen when a sticky bomb attached to a civilian car exploded near a checkpoint in the southern Dora area, police and health officials said.

A suicide car bomber killed more than 20 people and wounded 80 on Thursday at police headquarters in the mainly Shia city of Hilla.

Source: Agencies